Of the many happy accidents behind the creation of Seattle's Central Library, these two stand as the most important: one, Joshua Ramus, a Seattle native, learning about the project from his mother and then entering the architectural firm he worked for, Rem Koolhaas's Dutch-based OMA, into the design competition; and two, the late decision by the library's 13-member planning committee to become a 14-member planning committee by filling in the felt absence of a writer with Matthew Stadler. When finally voting on which designer to hire—it came down to Steven Holl or Rem Koolhaas—the committee split evenly: seven for Steven, seven for Rem. The reason for OMA's presence in the competition was Ramus; the reason for that exact split was Stadler.

"Flush with 1990s cash," wrote Stadler in one of his most brilliant essays, "An Artificial Heart," in the defunct Nest Magazine, "city voters had approved what was then the largest library bond measure in the history of the United States, and a call went out for a designer. I was surprised to see Rem Koolhaas's Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) among the respondents." The reason Matthew Stadler instantly recognized OMA was because he had long been an enthusiast of Koolhaas's work and also of the Netherlands, a country he visited yearly in the '90s for three-month stretches. If Stadler had not been on the committee and snapped it into two parts (both of which traveled to the Netherlands and Finland to see actual buildings the two finalists had designed) then certainly Holl would have been awarded the project and we would not have today the vital "artificial heart" of our city's life.

"OMA has provided the city with a kind of breakthrough boldness," wrote Stadler near the end of "An Artificial Heart." "OMA and the library have kick-started new possibilities by implanting this artificial heart at the center of the city." In short, without Stadler, Seattle would not have its center. Or, closer yet, its center would be a bad one: the Space Needle, which is private, serves expensive food, and is culturally empty. The Central Library is civic and alive like a Roman forum; a core area enclosed by balconies from which the public can look down at the circulating public. The center of good; the good of the center.

I bring this up for one reason: The man who was instrumental in giving Seattle its center is now on a mission to give Portland its edge. Stadler has abandoned "the old centralized city" for the edge city, the "Zwischenstadt," as he calls it, borrowing the term from a German urbanist named Thomas Sieverts. Zwischenstadt is an in-between space that does away with the binary order of power that makes a city meaningful to itself: urban/rural; nomos/physis; futuristic/backward. Stadler's paradigm for Zwischenstadt is Portland's former suburb Beaverton, an area that most in the center of the city would read as a wasteland of manufactured homes, strip malls, and corporate parks. But Stadler sees this area as the next site of political, racial, and cultural revolution.

"Beaverton, once a suburb of Portland," said Stadler in a recent lecture he delivered in Amsterdam, "is Oregon's most densely populated city (20 percent denser than Portland), its most diverse (for every one new immigrant moving to Portland, five move to Beaverton), and among its least planned. Here, for example, is the centerpiece of Beaverton's 'urban development plan'— a Hooters franchise, America's boob-centric restaurant chain." Stadler's project is ambitious. He wants to reorient the way we read the city, the way we experience it, the way we code it. He also wants a City Beautiful movement—not a movement where beautiful buildings are forced on the public for the improvement of our ugly souls, but, in a Kantian reversal, a movement where the public projects beauty onto buildings.

The project involves rethinking urban history, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. Stadler goes as far as to assert that Zwischenstadt was actually here long before the city center arrived and dominated the area. It was here in the form of early trade, early globalization, early links between European traders and native populations. They exchanged goods, sexual fluids, intermixed, circulated the rudiments of transnational capital, and were "divorced from time and space."

This is Stadler's new stage, Zwischenstadt, one that may—if accidents permit—give the edge something as wonderful, as dynamic as the Central Library.